Denial, negligence result in mounting Covid deaths

NACOSEC observes in a sensitization campaign in Quthing

MATHATISI SEBUSI

QUTHING – Negligence, denial, misinformation and lack of credible facts about the novel Coronavirus leads to mounting deaths, and remains a challenge in the Quthing district. This is the observation of the National COVID-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC), made during a mobile campaign last Friday partnered with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in collaboration with Quthing DISCOSEC and the Migrant Workers Association in the district.

The campaign focused on the district’s small towns, villages and prominent taxi ranks to sensitize communities on the pandemic and health protocols to uphold to curb the spread of infection. An estimated 1 000 (comprising 50 percent women, 40 percent men and 10 percent children) were directly reached during this drive.

NACOSEC’s Head of Risk Communication, Baroane Phenethi, remarked that a lot of people in the district still displayed huge signs of negligence and uninformed attitude when it comes to safety protocols and restrictions. He said these people seemed to believe they are not vulnerable to the pandemic. This sad, yet dangerous, state of affairs was identified mainly in Alwyns Kop, inhabited generally by Basotho and amaXhosa.

Phenethi said they opted to launch the campaign in Quthing because IOM, as donor, was already in the district working on a project to identify vulnerable migrant returnees and their family members, as well as other extreme vulnerable youth and provide them with skills training to restore their livelihood. He said they partnered with IOM in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and continuous need to sensitize populations on the risk of COVID-19 and educate them, both migrants and local communities, on key infection prevention and control measures.

“During the campaign, some of these people said they do not know anything about COVID-19, and one could tell that they were telling the truth by just looking at how they conducted themselves in public. They were not even wearing any face masks, a reflection that they cared little or knew nothing about guarding against Covid infection. This says there is a lot to do. We still have to go out and educate these communities about COVID-19,” he said.

According to the NACOSEC official the campaign targets hard to reach areas in the country and those people that do not have access to information – either through media or any other platforms. A similar campaign is also scheduled for the other Southern districts of Mohale’s Hoek and Qacha’s Nek. Phenethi said they planned to persuade IOM for continued partnership so that they can cover all the country’s mountain districts that also are in need of sensitization “especially areas not reached by local radio stations.”

He highlighted that “COVID-19 prevention is key as the arrival of the vaccine will not necessarily ensure that everyone gets vaccinated all at once.” “In two months’ time, the roll out of the vaccine (will be done) to ensure that all people get access to the vaccine no matter their area of residence, however, currently what is most important is sensitizing communities so that they can make informed decisions,” he said.

Phenethi continued that the virus is rapidly spreading; noting that in January the country was at 47 percent infection rate, and at 31 percent on the second week of the same month. He said the infection rate then surged, with most members of the public failing to abide by set Public Health Regulations meant to curb the spread and continuing to engage in super spreader social activities. Phenethi had expressed concern over patients who tested positive, but were sent home for self-quarantine and never reported back to health facilities for checkups. He said the NACOSEC failed to trace these cases.

He said he believes some had left the country while others changed their places of residence. Speaking during the same awareness campaign, Head of Office IOM Lesotho, Eriko Nishimura, reminded the visited communities that the pandemic is real and does not discriminate. She said fighting its spread required collaborative efforts.

“Let us not focus on the differences between migrant returnees, local communities and foreigners. We need to be united and fight against the pandemic together,” she said. She also emphasized the need for sustainable behavioural change, while again reflecting on the IOM support for the district; especially on the reintegration of returning migrants’ support during their time of need.

Quthing District Administrator, Motete Mokonyane, thanked the IOM for its support to the district with various interventions, including “counter trafficking, reintegration support, and now COVID-19 sensitization.” He said their recognition of the problems facing the district was truly humbling, noting that Quthing was hard hit by COVID-19 as there has been increase in cases of people with a strange flu and increased number of deaths related to the flu.

He said through this kind of support, the district was being encouraged to defeat this virus. Speaking to ‘Malimpho Shale, a street vendor operating from the taxi rank, noted that since the first lockdown in March 2020, business has been very slow and some street vendors have never recovered.

She said the businesses collapsed because the vendors were required to stay at home during the lockdown and were forced to consume the stock they had to survive. Shale said she only managed to get back to work because she borrowed capital from a loan shack to kickoff operations, a loan she said she is struggling to pay back as business is very bad. As of February Feb 25 after the campaign, the country had conducted 59 408 tests and recorded 10 455 positive COVID-19 cases, 3 260 recoveries and 285 deaths.

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